AWC Heading

What is the project?

Anchorage Terminal Reserve Environmental Investigation
a.k.a. Ship Creek Environmental Investigation

The Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 (EPA) signed an Administrative Order on Consent effective June 29, 2004 to implement an environmental remedial investigation and feasibility study (RI/FS) at the Anchorage Terminal Reserve in Anchorage, Alaska.

The 600-acre project area is located just north of downtown Anchorage. Ship Creek flows through the area and empties into the Knik Arm of Cook Inlet.

Various agencies of the federal government, including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), owned and operated in the area from 1915 to 1985. In 1985, railroad operations were transferred to the state-owned Alaska Railroad Corporation.

The ARRC Anchorage rail yard and adjoining properties have been leased to a variety of other industrial and commercial businesses ranging from small convenience stores to large oil storage facilities.

ARRC will sample the soil, groundwater, and surface water at several locations throughout the Anchorage Terminal Reserve during the RI/FS process. The objectives of this process are to determine the nature and extent of contamination, assess the risk to human health and the environment, and develop and evaluate alternatives for areas identified for cleanup. The RI/FS process requires detailed study plans and can take several years to complete. All the work is performed under the direct oversight of the EPA and others.

If any significant contamination is discovered during the study period, the agreement calls for an assessment of risks to humans, wildlife or the environment. The assessment results will guide the development of a cleanup plan where appropriate and feasible. Any cleanup would be shared cooperatively with past owners/operators of the Ship Creek railroad yard who had previous responsibility for the property.

Map of site:

Full Map (PDF)

(Source: AKRR, EPA)

What Now?

Winter 2008

The Alaska Railroad (ARRC) is completing the Remedial Investigation (RI) Report that will present the findings of their environmental study at the Anchorage Terminal Reserve.  This report will cover:

    • Contaminant pathways to Ship Creek,
    • The nature and extent of known and potential contaminant sources, and
    • Potential risks to humans and the environment.

When this document is finalized, the AWC will hold a public meeting for any interested parties to answer questions about the findings.

After the RI report is completed, the ARRC will do a Feasibility Study looking at different options for cleaning up the site.  Both the RI report and the Feasibility Study will be available for public review and comment in 2008, and information on participating in these dialogs will be posted on this website. 

Summer 2007

The sampling of the soil, groundwater and sediment around the lower Ship Creek Floodplain is now complete, and a draft report has been sent to the EPA for approval. Once the document is approved, it will be made publicly available and a public meeting will be held to discuss the findings.

The AWC has already reviewed these draft documents, and is able to answer any questions you may have about the project. Please contact us by phone (272-7335) or email.

Once the report is finalized, the most important information from it will be made available on our website. For those wishing to read the entire document, it will be available from the EPA.


The ARRC has installed a series of groundwater monitoring locations that will provide better information about where some of the pollutants may have originated and where they may be moving in the groundwater.

A report on the sampling of the soil and groundwater from these locations is expected in late 2006.

Surface water and sediment samples were collected in the Ship Creek channel and in ponds and marshes. Sampling will be focused in areas where fine-grained sediment settles, which is where any contaminants would be expected to build up.

ARRC hired a contractor to perform this work, Retec Inc. Retec is an environmental remediation contractor with experience in performing this type of work.

What have they found?

Releases of industrial wastes and petroleum products in the Terminal Reserve Area have resulted in both soil and groundwater contamination.

Preliminary environmental testing has shown that some of the soil and groundwater contamination in certain areas is in excess of levels protective of human health and the environment.

The study found a couple of groundwater plumes of concern on the south side of Ship Creek and some poly-chlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) on the north side of Ship Creek.

Chevron and Flint Hills both have facilities to the northwest of the Terminal Reserve area, and they have agreed to do risk assessment studies on their facilities.  Risk assessment studies calculate the quantity of contaminants, their effects on human health, and the potential pathways that these contaminants can take to impact humans.

Could my drinking water be affected by this?

No. The Municipality of Anchorage drinking water system obtains its water from sources several miles upgradient from the Anchorage Terminal Reserve. Environmental conditions at the Site could not affect these wells. If EPA or ARRC determines that any groundwater at the Site is being used as a source of drinking water, that use will be investigated to determine whether it creates any risk to human health.

Is Ship Creek affected by this?

A Ship Creek Surface Water and Sediment Assessment was completed by the ARRC in 2004. The general conclusions of this study indicated: 1) “the environmental quality of surface waters and surface sediments in the areas included in this study to not indicate widespread or significant contamination with the constituents that were analyzed for in these samples”, and 2) “the metals concentrations in sediment samples appear to represent naturally occurring background or upgradient conditions. The metals concentrations are generally higher in sediments near the lower extent of Ship Creek, below the lower dam … affected by saltwater…”

Based on this, widespread or “significant” contamination doesn’t appear to be present in Ship Creek. It is important to keep in mind that this study provided a single snapshot in time. As more information about the groundwater dynamics in the area are gained through the ongoing investigation work, the potential threats to Ship Creek, if any, will be much better defined.


The hard copies of the reports and other documents related to the RI/FS work at the Anchorage Terminal Reserve can be found at the Alaska Resources Library and Information Services (ARLIS) Library Building, University of Alaska, 3211 Providence Dr.  Phone: 786-7651.

Online documents and other information about the project can be found at the following sites:

ARRC Ship Creek Environmental Investigation Page:

USEPA Region 10 Cleanup: Anchorage Terminal Reserve Page: EPA Information